Why Hiring Marketing Experts Trumps Full-Time Leaders

In this article discover why businesses are hiring different types of marketing experts and explore the benefits they bring over full-time in-house roles.

Paul Mills
5 Sep
September 5, 2023
 min video
5 Sep

To Hire or Not to Hire a Marketing Expert?

In the ever-evolving landscape of business and marketing, companies face critical decisions when it comes to fulfilling their marketing leadership needs. While a full-time in-house marketing leader is the traditional choice, the emergence of roles like Marketing Advisors, Marketing Consultants, Fractional CMOs, and Non-Executive Directors offers compelling alternatives. These external experts bring specialised skills, cost-efficiency, fresh perspectives, and flexibility to the table, making them valuable assets in addressing specific challenges and strategic initiatives. In this article, we explore the advantages and considerations of each of these roles compared to traditional in-house leadership.

The Marketing Advisor: Strategic Guidance and Ongoing Support.

Marketing advisors serve as trusted partners who offer valuable guidance and insights to companies seeking to navigate the complexities of marketing. Their role is multifaceted, combining elements of mentorship, strategic planning, and industry expertise. Here's a closer look at what a marketing advisor does and how they contribute to a business's success.

Role of a Marketing Advisor

At its core, the role of a marketing advisor is to provide expert marketing advice and recommendations to businesses. They leverage their extensive experience and knowledge to assist companies in making informed decisions regarding their marketing strategies and initiatives.

Strategic Guidance

One of the primary functions of a marketing advisor is to offer strategic guidance. They work closely with businesses to develop comprehensive marketing strategies that align with the company's objectives and target audience. This strategic planning encompasses a wide range of considerations, from brand positioning to market segmentation and competitor analysis.

Long-Term Relationship

Unlike consulting roles that may be project-based, marketing advisors often establish long-term relationships with their clients. This long-term commitment allows them to gain a deep understanding of the business, its industry, and its unique challenges. They become trusted advisors who are intimately familiar with the company's goals and operations.

Holistic Perspective

A distinctive aspect of a marketing advisor's role is their ability to provide a holistic perspective on a company's marketing efforts. They take a comprehensive view, looking beyond individual marketing campaigns to assess how all the pieces fit together. This includes ensuring consistency in brand messaging, optimising the customer journey, and identifying trends and opportunities in the broader market landscape.

Mentorship and Training

In addition to strategic guidance, many marketing advisors also offer mentorship and training to internal marketing teams. This mentorship can take various forms, from one-on-one coaching sessions to workshops and skill development programs. By transferring their knowledge and expertise, marketing advisors empower in-house teams to grow and adapt to changing market dynamics.

Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Advisor

Businesses that engage a marketing advisor can expect to reap several key benefits:

  1. Expertise: Marketing advisors bring a wealth of industry-specific knowledge and experience to the table. They have often faced and successfully addressed similar challenges in their careers, making them invaluable resources for businesses.
  2. Cost-Efficiency: Hiring a marketing advisor is often more cost-effective than bringing on a full-time senior marketing professional. This is especially appealing for smaller businesses looking to access high-level talent without the financial commitment of a full-time hire.
  3. Flexibility: Marketing advisors adapt to the specific needs and timeline of their clients. This flexibility allows businesses to engage their expertise when and where it's most needed.
  4. Objective Perspective: An outsider's perspective can provide fresh ideas and insights to marketing strategies. Marketing advisors can challenge conventional thinking and bring innovative solutions to the table.

Drawbacks of Hiring a Marketing Advisor

While the benefits of hiring a marketing advisor are numerous, there are also potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Short-Term Focus: Marketing advisors, especially those engaged in long-term relationships, may occasionally prioritise short-term goals over long-term strategic planning.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating an external marketing advisor into an existing team or company culture can pose challenges. It may take time for them to align with internal processes and practices.
  • Dependency: Over-reliance on external advisors can hinder the development of in-house marketing expertise. It's essential for businesses to strike a balance between external guidance and internal skill development.

In summary, a marketing advisor serves as a valuable partner for businesses seeking to navigate the intricacies of marketing successfully. Their role encompasses strategic guidance, long-term relationship building, a holistic perspective, and often, mentorship to internal teams. While there are both benefits and drawbacks associated with hiring a marketing advisor, their expertise and ability to drive marketing success make them indispensable assets for businesses of all sizes.

Marketing Consultant: Specialised Expertise and Tactical Execution.

In the world of marketing, businesses often turn to marketing consultants for specialised expertise and hands-on assistance in achieving specific marketing goals. A marketing consultant is a professional who brings in-depth knowledge and experience in specific marketing areas to help businesses navigate challenges, implement strategies, and achieve measurable results. Here's an in-depth look at the role of a marketing consultant and how they contribute to marketing success.

Role of a Marketing Consultant

A marketing consultant's role is centred around providing businesses with specialised, project-focused expertise in various aspects of marketing. They are hired to address specific marketing challenges, develop and execute campaigns, and leverage their niche skills to improve overall marketing performance.

Specialised Expertise

One of the key distinctions of a marketing consultant is their specialised expertise. They are recognised authorities in areas such as search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media management, pay-per-click advertising, market research, or branding to name but a few. Clients engage consultants to tap into their deep knowledge in these specialised domains.

Engagement Duration

Marketing consulting engagements are typically short-term and project-based. Businesses hire consultants to tackle specific marketing issues or initiatives, and the duration of the engagement is often defined by the scope of the project. This flexibility allows companies to access expert help precisely when they need it.

Data-Driven and Tactical

Marketing consultants take a data-driven and tactical approach to marketing. They use data analysis, industry best practices, and proven strategies to develop and execute marketing campaigns. Consultants are often directly involved in implementing these strategies and optimising them for maximum impact.

Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Consultant

Businesses that engage marketing consultants can expect to realise several key benefits:

  1. Specialised Expertise: Marketing consultants bring highly specialised skills and experience to the table, which can be crucial in addressing specific marketing challenges.
  2. Cost-Efficiency: Hiring a consultant for a specific project can be more cost-effective than employing a full-time specialist, especially when the need is temporary or project-based.
  3. Immediate Impact: Marketing consultants can quickly assess marketing challenges and implement changes, delivering results in a relatively short timeframe.
  4. Objective Perspective: As external experts, consultants provide an objective perspective, bringing fresh ideas and insights to marketing strategies.

Drawbacks of Hiring a Marketing Consultant

While there are numerous advantages to hiring a marketing consultant, there are also potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Short-Term Focus: Marketing consultants are typically engaged for short-term projects, which may lead to a focus on immediate goals rather than long-term sustainability.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating a consultant into an existing team or company culture can pose challenges, as they may not have the same level of commitment or loyalty as permanent employees.
  • Dependency: Over-reliance on external consultants can hinder the development of in-house marketing expertise, potentially leading to a dependency on external talent.

In summary, a marketing consultant plays a crucial role in providing specialised expertise and hands-on assistance in achieving specific marketing objectives. Their specialised knowledge, tactical approach, and ability to deliver immediate results make them valuable assets for businesses seeking to address specific marketing challenges or implement targeted marketing strategies. However, businesses should carefully manage the engagement and strike a balance between leveraging external expertise and developing in-house marketing capabilities to achieve long-term success.

"In today's dynamic market, tapping into external marketing expertise is like having a Swiss army knife of strategic solutions at your disposal."

Paul Mills,
CEO & Founder at VCMO

Fractional CMO: Elevating Marketing Strategy With Expert Leadership.

In the realm of marketing leadership, Fractional CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) – sometimes referred to as a Virtual CMO - are emerging as a strategic solution for businesses seeking high-level marketing expertise without the commitment of a full-time executive hire. A fractional CMO works on a part-time or temporary basis, providing invaluable marketing leadership and guidance. Here's a detailed look at the role of a Fractional CMO and how they contribute to a company's marketing success.

Role of a Fractional CMO

A Fractional CMO assumes the role of a senior marketing executive, responsible for providing strategic leadership and oversight of a company's marketing efforts. Their primary focus is on developing and executing comprehensive marketing strategies that align with the organisation's business objectives.

Responsibilities of a Fractional CMO

  1. Strategic Leadership: Fractional CMOs play a pivotal role in developing and executing high-level marketing strategies. They ensure that marketing efforts are aligned with the broader business goals, providing a strategic direction for the marketing department.
  2. Team Management: In many cases, Fractional CMOs also oversee and mentor the marketing team. They set performance metrics, provide guidance, and foster collaboration to ensure the team's effectiveness.
  3. Campaign Development: Fractional CMOs take the lead in the creation and execution of marketing campaigns. This includes overseeing various marketing channels, such as digital marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and traditional advertising.
  4. Data-Driven Decisions: Utilising data analytics, Fractional CMOs monitor campaign performance, analyse key metrics, and make data-driven decisions to optimise marketing efforts and maximise ROI.
  5. Budget Management: They are responsible for setting and managing marketing budgets, allocating resources effectively to achieve marketing objectives while controlling costs.

Benefits of Hiring a Fractional CMO

Businesses that engage a Fractional CMO can expect to realise several significant advantages:

  • Expertise: Fractional CMOs bring extensive marketing knowledge and experience to the table, often with a proven track record of driving growth for businesses.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Hiring a Fractional CMO is often more cost-effective than employing a full-time CMO, making it accessible to smaller businesses.
  • Flexibility: Companies can engage Fractional CMOs on a part-time or project-based basis, adapting to specific needs and budgets.
  • Immediate Impact: Fractional CMOs can quickly assess marketing challenges and implement changes, delivering results in a relatively short timeframe.

Drawbacks of Hiring a Fractional CMO

While the benefits of hiring a Fractional CMO are substantial, there are potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Short-Term Focus: Fractional CMOs often work on contract-based arrangements, which may lead to a short-term focus on immediate goals rather than long-term sustainability.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating a Fractional CMO into existing teams and company culture can pose challenges, as they may not have the same level of commitment or loyalty as permanent employees.
  • Dependency: Over-reliance on a Fractional CMO can hinder the development of in-house marketing expertise, potentially leading to a long-term dependency on external leadership.

In summary, a Fractional CMO serves as a strategic marketing leader, providing high-level expertise and guidance to businesses seeking to elevate their marketing strategies. Their specialised focus on strategic planning, campaign execution, and data-driven decision-making can lead to significant improvements in a company's marketing performance. However, businesses should carefully manage their relationship with a Fractional CMO to maximise the benefits while addressing potential drawbacks, striking the right balance between external expertise and internal marketing capabilities.

Read more about in our article - The Fractional CMO: A Catalyst For Business Growth.

Non-Executive Director (NED): Strategic Oversight and Governance.

In the corporate landscape, Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) play a crucial role in providing strategic oversight and governance to organisations. While they do not hold full-time executive positions within the company, their contributions are integral to decision-making and the long-term success of the business. Here's a comprehensive look at the role of a Non-Executive Director and how they contribute to a company's overall strategy, including their involvement in marketing.

Role of a Non-Executive Director

A Non-Executive Director is a member of a company's board of directors who does not hold a full-time executive role within the organisation. Instead, their role is primarily focused on providing independent, objective, and strategic guidance to the company's management and shareholders. While NEDs do not participate in the day-to-day operational activities of the business, they contribute to governance, risk management, and strategic planning.

Responsibilities of a Non-Executive Director

  1. Governance: NEDs play a critical role in ensuring that the company operates ethically, legally, and in accordance with established governance standards. They monitor compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical practices.
  2. Strategic Direction: NEDs are actively involved in shaping the strategic direction of the company. They participate in board discussions and decision-making processes related to long-term goals, mergers and acquisitions, and market expansion.
  3. Risk Management: NEDs assess and manage risks that the company may face. This includes evaluating risks associated with marketing strategies, ensuring compliance with advertising standards, and mitigating potential reputational risks.
  4. Stakeholder Communication: NEDs often serve as a bridge between the company's management and its shareholders or stakeholders. They provide transparency and communication about the company's performance and strategic decisions.
  5. Audit and Financial Oversight: NEDs oversee financial reporting, ensuring transparency and accountability in financial matters, including marketing budgets and expenditures.

Benefits of Having a Non-Executive Director

Companies that have NEDs can realise several key benefits:

  • Independent Perspective: NEDs bring an independent and objective viewpoint to board discussions, challenging assumptions and providing fresh insights.
  • Strategic Oversight: They contribute to the development of long-term strategies, including marketing strategies, ensuring alignment with the company's overall goals.
  • Governance and Compliance: NEDs enhance governance and help companies maintain ethical standards, navigate regulatory complexities, and manage risks effectively.
  • Experienced Guidance: NEDs often have extensive industry experience and a wealth of knowledge, which can be invaluable in making informed decisions.

Drawbacks of Having a Non-Executive Director

While the benefits of having NEDs are significant, there are potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Cost: Hiring NEDs comes with costs associated with compensation and meeting expenses, which may impact the company's budget.
  • Time Commitment: NEDs must commit significant time to board meetings and activities, which may limit their availability for other responsibilities.
  • Conflict of Interest: Ensuring that NEDs maintain independence and avoid conflicts of interest can be challenging, especially in cases where the director has financial or personal ties to the company.
  • Limited Hands-On Involvement: NEDs do not participate in daily operations, which means they may not have a deep understanding of the intricacies of marketing campaigns and initiatives.

In summary, Non-Executive Directors play a vital role in providing strategic oversight, governance, and objective guidance to organizations. While their primary focus is on broader corporate strategy and governance, they also have a role in assessing and contributing to marketing-related decisions, especially those related to strategy alignment, risk management, and compliance. Businesses benefit from the expertise, experience, and independent perspective that NEDs bring to the boardroom, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the company. However, managing the relationship with NEDs effectively is essential to maximise their value and address potential drawbacks.

What Are the Typical Costs of Hiring Outsourced Marketing Experts?

The cost of hiring outsourced marketing expertise (mentioned above) can vary significantly based on several factors, including the level of expertise, industry, geographic location, and the specific needs of the business. Here is a general overview of the typical cost considerations for each role:

1. Marketing Advisor

  • Hourly or Monthly Fee: Marketing advisors often charge fees based on an hourly rate or a monthly retainer. Rates can range from £100 to £200 or more per hour, depending on their experience and expertise.
  • Project-Based Fees: For more extensive projects or ongoing advisory services, marketing advisors may offer project-based fees, which can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds per month.
  • Long-Term Engagement: Long-term advisory relationships may involve lower monthly fees or retainer agreements, typically ranging from £2,000 to £5,000 or more per month.

2. Marketing Consultant

  • Hourly or Daily Rates: Marketing consultants often charge by the hour or day. Rates can vary widely based on their specialisation and experience, ranging from £75 to £200 or more per hour.
  • Project-Based Fees: For specific projects, marketing consultants may provide a fixed project fee. These fees can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands or more, depending on the scope and complexity of the project.
  • Monthly Retainers: Some marketing consultants offer monthly retainers for ongoing services, which can range from £1,000 to £8,000 or more per month, depending on the level of engagement.

3. Virtual CMO

  • Monthly Retainers: Virtual CMOs typically charge a monthly retainer fee. The cost can vary significantly based on their experience and the level of engagement, ranging from £5,000 to £15,000 or more per month.
  • Project-Based Fees: For specific marketing projects or short-term engagements, Virtual CMOs may offer project-based fees, which can range from a few thousand Pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.

4. Non-Executive Director (NED)

  • Annual Retainers: NEDs often receive annual retainers for their services. These retainers can vary widely, depending on the size and complexity of the company, industry, and responsibilities. NED retainers can range from £10,000 to £100,000 or more per year.
  • Equity Compensation: In addition to retainers, NEDs may receive equity compensation, such as stock options or grants, as part of their overall compensation package.

It's important to note that these are general cost ranges, and actual fees can vary significantly based on individual circumstances. When hiring any of these roles, it's essential to consider the specific needs of your business, the level of expertise required, and the geographic location, as rates may differ between regions and industries. Additionally, negotiation and agreement on compensation terms are common in these types of engagements, allowing flexibility to tailor the arrangement to your business's unique requirements.

What Are the Advantages of an Outsourced Marketing Expert Compared to Full-time In-house Marketing Leader?

Hiring outsourced marketing expertise offers several advantages compared to employing a full-time in-house marketing leader. These advantages include:

1. Cost-Efficiency

  • Cost Savings: Outsourcing marketing expertise can often be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time, salaried in-house marketing leader. Businesses can budget for specific projects or engagements, avoiding the expense of a full-time salary, benefits, and overhead costs.

2. Expertise and Specialisation

  • Specialised Skills: These roles bring specialised expertise and skills to the table, allowing businesses to access niche knowledge and experience that may not be available in a single in-house hire.
  • Varied Expertise: Depending on the specific role, businesses can engage experts with different skill sets for various projects, ensuring the right talent for each task.

3. Flexibility

  • Scalability: Businesses can scale their engagement with these roles according to their needs. They can adjust the level of involvement, hours, or project scope as necessary, providing flexibility in resource allocation.
  • Short-Term Support: These roles are ideal for short-term or project-based needs, allowing businesses to address immediate challenges without a long-term commitment.

4. Objective Perspective

  • Fresh Insights: External professionals bring an outsider's perspective, offering fresh ideas, insights, and objective assessments of marketing strategies and challenges.
  • Unbiased Advice: Being independent, they can provide unbiased advice and recommendations, unaffected by internal politics or biases.

5. Speed and Agility

  • Rapid Response: Outsourced marketing roles can be engaged quickly, providing rapid response to urgent marketing needs, such as launching a campaign or addressing a crisis.
  • Adaptability: Outsourced marketing experts can adapt to changing market conditions and technology trends, ensuring businesses stay agile and competitive.

6. Access to Networks

  • Industry Connections: Many outsourced marketing professionals have extensive networks in their respective industries. They can leverage these connections for partnerships, collaborations, or market insights.

7. Mitigation of Internal Risks

  • Risk Management: Hiring external marketers can help mitigate internal risks, such as overburdening existing staff, reducing employee burnout, and providing backup expertise in case of staff turnover.

8. Strategic Focus

  • Strategic Alignment: Outsourced marketing roles often focus on high-level strategy and decision-making, ensuring that marketing efforts align closely with overall business objectives.
  • Data-Driven Decision-Making: They emphasise data-driven decision-making, which can lead to more efficient resource allocation and improved ROI.

9. Avoidance of Overhead

  • Overhead Reduction: Engaging external marketing experts eliminates the need to manage additional full-time employees, reducing administrative overhead and HR responsibilities.

10. Objective Evaluation

  • Objective Performance Assessment: Outsourced marketing experts can objectively assess the performance of in-house marketing teams or initiatives, offering valuable feedback for improvement.

11. Time and Resource Allocation

  • Focus on Core Competencies: Outsourcing specialised marketing roles allows businesses to focus on their core competencies while leaving marketing tasks to experts.

12. Knowledge Transfer

  • Knowledge Transfer: These outsourced roles often share knowledge and best practices, empowering internal teams to learn and grow, which can be especially beneficial for smaller companies.

While these advantages make hiring marketing experts an attractive option, it's important to note that each situation is unique. The choice between hiring external experts and having an in-house marketing leader depends on the specific needs, goals, and resources of the business. In some cases, a combination of both approaches may provide the most effective solution for comprehensive marketing leadership and execution.

"External marketing specialists bring a fresh, data-driven perspective to the table, offering the agility and precision that every modern business craves."

Paul Mills
CEO & Founder, VCMO

What Are the Key Considerations Before Hiring an Outsourced Marketing Expert?

When considering hiring an outsourced marketing expert, there are several key considerations to keep in mind to ensure a successful partnership. Here are the key factors to consider before making a hiring decision:

  1. Clear Objectives and Needs: Define your specific goals, challenges, and objectives. What do you aim to achieve by hiring this role? Clear objectives will help you find the right candidate with the appropriate expertise.
  2. Budget and Compensation: Determine your budget for hiring the role. Understand the typical compensation structures and rates for the role you're seeking. Be prepared to negotiate fees or salaries.
  3. Expertise and Specialisation: Identify the specific expertise and skills required. Different roles bring different strengths. Ensure the candidate's specialisation aligns with your needs, whether it's marketing strategy, campaign execution, or governance.
  4. Experience and Track Record: Evaluate the candidate's experience and track record. Review their past projects, achievements, and client or company testimonials. Look for a history of success in addressing challenges similar to yours.
  5. References and Reputation: Request and check references from previous clients or employers. Investigate the candidate's reputation in the industry and their ability to work effectively with others.
  6. Alignment with Company Culture: Assess how well the candidate aligns with your company's values, culture, and long-term vision. Compatibility with your team and organisational values is essential for a successful partnership.
  7. Communication and Collaboration: Evaluate the candidate's communication skills, including their ability to convey complex ideas clearly. Effective collaboration and teamwork are crucial, especially for roles that involve working closely with your internal team.
  8. Scope and Duration: Define the scope of work and the expected duration of the engagement. Determine if you need short-term assistance for a specific project or ongoing support.
  9. Legal and Contractual Aspects: Work with legal counsel to establish a clear contract that outlines responsibilities, deliverables, compensation terms, and confidentiality agreements. Ensure all parties understand and agree to the terms.
  10. Flexibility and Scalability: Consider the flexibility and scalability of the engagement. Will the candidate be able to adapt to changing needs or business growth?
  11. Risk Mitigation: Assess potential risks and have contingency plans in place. For example, understand how you can terminate the engagement if it doesn't meet expectations or if circumstances change.
  12. Reporting and Metrics: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and expectations for reporting and progress monitoring. Set up regular check-ins or reporting mechanisms to track the candidate's impact.
  13. Competitive Landscape: Research the competitive landscape to understand industry benchmarks and best practices. This knowledge will help you set realistic expectations and evaluate the candidate's recommendations.
  14. Client or Peer Feedback: Seek input from trusted industry peers or colleagues who may have experience working with candidates in similar roles. Their insights can provide valuable perspectives.
  15. Personal Chemistry: Consider the personal chemistry and rapport between your team and the candidate. A positive working relationship is essential for productive collaboration.
  16. Exit Strategy: Establish an exit strategy that outlines the process for ending the engagement, including any transition of responsibilities or knowledge transfer.

By carefully considering these factors before making a hiring decision, you can increase the likelihood of finding the right marketing experts who aligns with your business needs and contributes effectively to your objectives. Additionally, engaging in thorough due diligence and open communication with potential candidates is essential to building a successful working relationship.


In conclusion, the decision to hire external marketing roles like Advisors, Consultants, Fractional CMOs, or Non-Executive Directors should be driven by the unique needs and goals of your business. These roles offer cost-efficiency, specialised expertise, flexibility, and objective insights compared to full-time in-house marketing leaders. By carefully considering your objectives, budget, and the specific skills required, you can harness the benefits of external experts to drive marketing success and achieve your strategic goals effectively and efficiently.

About VCMO

VCMO helps SMEs and investor-backed portfolio companies with a £2 million or higher turnover that operate without a full-time Chief Marketing Officer. Our Fractional CMOs and tailored services transform marketing potential into a competitive advantage that delivers scalable and predictable growth, increased profits, and enhanced enterprise value.

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Paul Mills
CEO & Founder

If this article resonates with your business situation, get in touch to discuss how we can help.

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